Following Pope Benedict XVI's repeated messages denouncing same-sex marriage, more Dutch Catholics are seeking ways to leave the Catholic Church. And one website is helping people to "de-baptize" themselves.
According to Reuters, the website ontdopen.nl ("de-baptize.nl") has gained significant traffic this month after the pope took the time in his Christmas speech to the Vatican bureaucracy to condemn gay marriage.
"They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves," he said. "The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man's fundamental choice where he himself is concerned."
The speech comes after the pope addressed gay marriage in his peace day message earlier this month. He said, "There is … a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union.
"Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society."
Early this year, the pontiff also said same-sex marriage threatens human dignity and the future of humanity itself.
Tom Roes set up the "de-baptism" website. He left the Catholic Church over the cover-up of sexual abuse in Catholic institutions. He told Reuters it's not possible to be "de-baptized," but said people can "unsubscribe or de-register themselves as Catholics" through his website.
The website has a disclaimer stating that it is not responsible for any side effects of a life of sin such as diseases, natural disasters, or hell.
The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001. In the liberal country, about 28 percent of the population is Catholic and 18 percent is Protestant while many are not religious.
Jeannine Marino, program specialist for evangelization & catechesis at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told The Christian Post early this year that "de-baptism" is impossible "because we believe that baptism permanently seals the person to Christ and the Church."
"People can stop participating in the Church, but we believe the grace of the sacrament has marked them forever," Marino explained. "If the request to be 'de-baptized' is meant to have one's name removed from the baptismal records, this would not be allowed since the baptismal record is a record of historical facts."